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Taking Refuge in His Goodness
by Heather O’Hara
He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him I will trust.”
Oh, how great is Your goodness, which You have laid up for those who fear You, which You have prepared for those who trust in You in the presence of the sons of men!
This past spring and summer I was going full tilt. I had taken on several additional activities that would only be for a season, but added to my family responsibilities, I had left myself with no margin to be still. All the activities were good things. And all the activities were ones I know I was called to do. But somewhere I began to operate as a woman led by her calendar rather than the by the Holy Spirit. I had taken my eyes off the One who gives me strength. As a result I found myself in a panicked state.
I missed sleep the retreat weekend in May and in the weeks following I found myself increasingly anxious and depressed and feeling as if I just wanted to run away from the plans for the coming Saturday: three activities I would normally have relished serving and being a part – a Women’s Prayer Breakfast, a Women’s Ministry Committee Meeting, and a best friend’s bridal shower. In all of these I would play a role “up front.” My introverted flesh felt under assault from a case of “too many people!” and my fleshly reaction was to want pull inward or run away. If I could have I would have stayed home sick that Saturday.
But God had something for me to learn. Having barely made it through breakfast earlier at the end of the Women’s Ministry meeting I broke down in tears and sobs and confessed my fear of going to Joy’s shower, that I might not be able to hold it together, that people would expect something of me that I might not be able to give (namely a poised and cultured matron-of-honor).
Fellow sisters took me aside to pray. I remember Barb and Gale and others surrounding me in the stairwell of church. I remember blubbering and wailing of my inability. That I just couldn’t do it all. My fears built up and poured out – How can I meet Joy’s future mother-in-law today? I can’t even stop crying. What if I was going crazy? What if this wasn’t just a blip of being overwhelmed or PMS in a peri-menopausal woman? No, what if this was the beginning of a significant episode of bipolar disorder like in my past? My mother is always warning me to take it easy, not to take on too much, that I am fragile. I knew I had been taking risks, taking on responsibilities more than I could accomplish on my own. Maybe she was right, maybe I was ill. My fears led me to believe that the worst had come, my life was crumbling around me and this time there were witnesses to my undoing (which was the best thing that could have happened!).
As my sisters surrounded me, I kept saying “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” – What an ugly mess. I hated for them to see my rawness, my fears. I felt so ashamed. Their response? “Sorry for what?” “Sorry for having emotions and feelings?” “Sorry for fears?” “Sorry for weakness?” They weren’t fazed or undone by what I was putting them through. There wasn’t anything for me to apologize for. They didn’t judge or condemn me. They loved me where I was at.
Barb told me how remembering that God’s goodness was her refuge had helped her in times when she was overwhelmed. Gale assured me that tears were okay, that it was okay to fall apart. God is not surprised at my need. My heaving sobs subsided as I saw truth a bit more clearly. My sovereign God was in control. He had never left me or forsaken me. He is good. I looked toward the One who is my refuge and tentatively pulled myself together enough to go help Connie set up for the shower. As I entered the room, I caught my breath – the room was beautiful, the work was done. It happened without my help. Frances and others had seen the need and stepped in to help with the preparations. God meets needs, it didn’t have to be me.
I learned a lot that day:
Vulnerability in fellowship changes things. Since I had previously shared my propensity to depression and mood swings with these precious ladies, they had an idea of what was going on. They have prayed for me, watched out for me and they were prepared to step in, surround me, and lead me back to the truth. God placed me just where He wanted me that day, in the company of believing women who would point me to Christ’s sufficiency and God’s love and care for me.
Focusing on my situation or illness doesn’t help, only Christ gives hope. I was listening to the wisdom of the world. I heard, “You are going to go crazy and it is going to be bad. Here it comes…” Which only led to more fear. My sisters pointed me to where I would find hope and precious promises – to Christ – God’s Goodness is indeed my Refuge. By isolating myself from others and pursuing medical help alone I would not have dealt with the sin and fear in my heart. The fear of losing control or the sin of believing that I am in control, that I can accomplish things in my own strength instead of dependence on Christ; the fear of man’s opinion or the sin idolizing or valuing man’s opinion over trust in God; the sin of pride, thinking that I could do things better than others, that God might not use others to do some of the things I had put on my plate. But God is not surprised at my failings, He made a provision for my sin in the person of Jesus Christ who lived a perfect life for me. I need not be held captive by my fear. He alone gives hope for change through the gospel – I am indeed more sinful and flawed than I can ever imagine and more loved and accepted than I ever dare to hope.
I can’t ignore stewardship of my health. Mom was partly right. I do have to maintain a delicate balance to stay well. Not as a guarantee of total control or perfect wellness, but because I am called to care for my body, the temple of the Holy Spirit. A busy schedule, inadequate sleep, hormone fluctuations, drinking caffeine (which limits absorption of vitamin D3 and other key vitamins and minerals essential for mental health), eating gluten (which for me aggravates a thyroid autoimmune disease) had created a perfect storm. It was time to check in with the doctor and get back on track.
Mental Illness is the thorn that keeps me seeking after God. Without its humbling, its darkness, I would not seek the light, but my own way: self-sufficiency and independence. Do I like depression? A brain that can’t think clearly sometimes? No. Not at all. But I am thankful for how precious God’s promises have become to me as a result. I am so thankful for His people who can change my focus from myself to my Provision in just a few words of truth.
So. One of my great fears came true. I lost it in public. Totally melted down. It was the best place ever! God knew what I needed to hear and provided the ladies to encourage me, I pray my experience can be an encouragement to you. Some questions for reflection:
Are you focusing on a situation or problem right now more that you are the One who is there to help you?
Are you caring for your body, to make it strong for service to your family, the church and the Kingdom? Are you feeding your soul by meditating on the Scriptures and spending time in prayer?
What is it in your life that you would love to change, but keeps you seeking after God? Can you give thanks for it today? Have you shared your “thorn” with a friend who can encourage you with truth when you are weak?
I continue to struggle with busyness and focus and keeping my diet clear of those things that limit my wellness and I ask for your prayers. But I know that my Redeemer lives and that He never gives up on me. He will never leave me of forsake me and He will be faithful to complete the work He has begun in my life. He will do the same for you.
About Heather: Heather is thankful for God’s unrelenting pursuit of her heart and His amazing grace. She is the wife of amazingly patient Pete and five great kids: Chris (18), Sean (17), Mike (15), Grace (13) and John (12). She is a marching band (Stafford High School) and swim (RAYS and Grafton) mom who enjoys sharing the goodness of God with others and enjoys reading whenever she gets a moment. The mentors and ladies of NLICC’s Women’s Bible Studies and Titus 2 have been great encouragers in her life.
Mental Health and the Mission of the Church Mini-Conference – November 16th from 8:30am-1:30pm Save the date! Biblical counselor Pam Lopes, Dr. Mitzi Sampson and Pastor Sean will be educating, equipping and encouraging us to minister to ourselves, our families, friends and neighbors. Mental health issues are ones that affect all of us in some way or another, yet are often kept hidden and unshared with our church body out of shame or stigma. How should the church respond to mental illness? With compassion and help and the light of Christ – the same way she responds to any suffering. Come spend the morning in worship, fellowship and learning with the women of the church. Breakfast and lunch provided. Bring a friend. No cost, but donations will be accepted day of conference to defray costs. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you are coming. RSVP is needed to plan for food and materials.
Women’s Ministry Meeting, Saturday, October 12th at 8:30 am in Room 216
Women’s Ministry Training, Saturday, October 12th at 10 am in Room 216
Read Chapter 5 “Focus” and Chapter 6 “Wisdom” in Leadership for Women in the Church by Susan Hunt and Peggy Hutcheson. Carrie Verbosky will be leading this lesson.
Matthew Smith and Indelible Grace, Friday, October 18th Have you purchased your tickets yet? Did you know there is a maximum family price for the concert? Indelible Grace played at the last international PCA Women’s Conference in Atlanta and featured familiar (and less familiar but rich in meaning) hymns set to contemporary music. A beautiful expression of truth and grace! At 5:30pm before the concert Matthew Smith will lead a seminar on hymn rewriting. Contact the front office for tickets.
- Tickets will be $5 in advance with a $15 maximum per family.
- At the door the cost will be $7 in advance, $20 max per family.
Matthew Smith is a Nashville-based singer-songwriter who writes brand new music to centuries-old hymn texts. He is a founding member of the Indelible Grace community, whose work has drawn acclaim across denominational lines and is used in churches around the world. Born out of a college ministry, the re-imagined hymns have found wide acceptance both among college students and the church at large, joining people who desire to honor tradition with those who want a modern musical approach. His latest album, Watch The Rising Day, explores the tension of living in a broken world while awaiting Christ’s return and the restoration of all things.
Blessing Bag box in Foyer Gale Puffenberger has placed a box in the foyer for Blessing Bag items. Creating bags with toiletries and snacks will be our activity for the Women’s Prayer Breakfast on October 19th. These bags can be taken with you in the car so that you are equipped to help someone who is in need or you may them donate to the food pantry. The sign-up sheet here has a list of items we are collecting. Even if you can’t participate, we encourage you to donate any of these items, no need to sign up unless you have a quantity, so that we know we can depend upon that amount. This would be a fun activity to bring a daughter or two to!
Women’s Prayer Breakfast, Saturday, October 19th at 9am in the Fireside Room Come join in fellowship! No need to bring anything to share unless you are participating in the Blessing Bag activity after the meal or if you’d like to help provide the breakfast, sign up here.
Capernaum Help If you are interested in providing hospitality for Capernaum on a Thursday evening, click here. A great opportunity to serve as friends or as a care group.
Want to Join? You may join the Women’s Bible Study that meets in room 216 on Tuesday mornings from 9:30-11:30 at any time. Childcare is available. We are learning the scriptural basis for the Westminster Confession of Faith. It has been great lesson each week! Contact Christine in the office for books. As always, if you need financial assistance, let us know.
Story Challenge If a lady in your Titus 2 group or care group has shared something that God has wrought in her life that has encouraged, challenged or taught you, encourage her to share; help her to send it to be published in the Update so that we might share in the blessing as well. Contact Annie Jedick or send it to email@example.com.
So thankful for the rain that waters the earth,
in His grace,
for the Women’s Ministry Committee